Sunday, December 23, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Chargers 27, Jets 17
By Rich Cimini
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New quarterback, same crummy team. Greg McElroy made his first NFL start, replacing the benched Mark Sanchez, but failed to spark the moribund Jets, who fell to the awful Chargers 27-17 on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. How bad was it? The Jets' best pass was thrown by a wide receiver -- Jeremy Kerley.
What it means: The Jets (6-9), eliminated last week from playoff contention, clinched their first losing season of the Rex Ryan era, their first since 2007. The product on the field is garbage. That they lost to another also-ran team, with a lame-duck coach, speaks volumes about the sad state of the Jets. Clearly, an offseason of major upheaval is on the way. The Chargers improved to 6-9.
G-Mac attack: For weeks, frustrated Jets fans yearned to see the fresh face -- McElroy. They got their wish, and what they saw was utterly predictable. McElroy gave it the ol' college try, but he was overmatched by the Chargers' aggressive defense. He was sacked 11 times, the most allowed by the Jets since 1986. McElroy held the ball too long and didn't sense the pressure, showing poor pocket presence. Now McElroy can empathize with Sanchez: It's tough to throw when nobody gets open.
McElroy (14-for-24, 185 yards, one interception) led the offense to touchdowns on two of their first three possessions, but reality set in, as the Jets blew a 14-7 lead. He was smart with the ball until he was asked to throw downfield, and he wound up with a horrible interception at the end of the third quarter. He committed two turnovers, including a fumble. McElroy has some nice intangibles, but he doesn't have the skill set to be a No. 1 quarterback.
Three-quarterback circus: After weeks of dropping hints about activating all three quarterbacks, Ryan did just that. It was a first for the Jets this season. League-wide, it happened only eight times in the first 15 weeks, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Of course, the Jets managed to turn it into a joke, as neither Sanchez nor Tim Tebow played. What was the purpose of dressing Tebow if they weren't going to use him in the Wildcat or on the punt team? Ryan continues to make a mockery of his quarterback situation.
Another Tebow insult: As if being a healthy bystander weren't bad enough, Tebow had to watch as Kerley played in the Wildcat, took a direct snap and threw a 42-yard completion to Clyde Gates to set up the Jets' first touchdown. With that one pass, Kerley eclipsed Tebow's passing yardage for the season. Week after week, the Jets continue to dump on Tebow, with the coaching staff showing how little it wanted him in the first place.
Too late, Tony: Embattled offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, who almost certainly will be looking for a job, actually showed some creative wrinkles. He used Kerley, a former high school quarterback, four times in the Wildcat. He used running back Shonn Greene in the Wildcat. There was a throwback screen to tight end Hayden Smith, a former rugby star who made his first NFL catch. It all begs the question: Where was this stuff all season?
Typical D: The Jets' defense had its moments, but ultimately let down, giving up 37- and 34-yard scoring passes in the third quarter. Antonio Cromartie and Eric Smith were beat in man-to-man coverage by Danario Alexander and Antonio Gates, respectively. Philip Rivers (11-for-22, 165 yards, 2 TDs), after an awful start, finally played a little like the quarterback he used to be -- and that was enough to beat the Jets.
Special teams nightmare: The Jets honored retiring special teams coach Mike Westhoff by introducing him during the pregame, allowing him to emerge from the tunnel to soak up some well-deserved applause for a fantastic career. Moments later, the mood turned sour, as the Jets suffered yet another special teams meltdown -- a 63-yard punt return for a touchdown by Michael Spurlock. It was the first punt return TD allowed by the Jets since 2003.
What's ahead: Mercifully, the Jets end the season next Sunday on the road, facing the equally inept Bills (5-10).